While events such as our Earth Day group cleanup on the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail have been unable to go forward, individual volunteers have been stepping up on their own time to help keep our trails clean. Dozens of individual volunteers have completed self-directed cleanups in our watershed’s Conservation Areas. Volunteers at Confederation Beach Park have been especially helpful this Spring with more and more visitors enjoying the Breezeway Trail.
Volunteers can register and coordinate their activities with HCA by visiting their Volunteer Opportunities page and getting in touch. That way we can track the impact of your efforts, connect you with extra resources and ensure your volunteering has the maximum possible benefit to the Hamilton watershed.
One of the few silver linings Covid-19 pandemic has been the extraordinary increase in visitors throughout the Hamilton watershed’s natural areas. It’s not hard to see why so many people are getting outdoors. With lockdowns, uncertainty and social isolation taking their toll, time spent in nature provides a vital tool in managing mental health. In order to keep up with this increased use, some work needs to be done. Trail improvements are being planned across the watershed, funded in part by your generous donations to the Foundation’s Trail Development Fund.
Valens Lake CA, Fletcher Creek Ecological Preserve and the Lafarge 2000 Trail will see some of the first improvements. As donations come in, Valens Lake will see an improved trailhead at its iconic fishing bridge, have mown grass trails developed into formalized stone dust trails and see some of its beautiful lakeside boardwalks restored to their former glory. Trail work is also planned for the nearby Fletcher Creek Ecological Preserve where some existing pathways will be developed into formalized trails and existing trails upgraded. An improved trailhead kiosk is also planned to help new users find their way to the beautifully restored former quarry site. The Lafarge 2000 Trail will also see erosion hotspots repaired and restoration work throughout. This work has an estimated price tag of $220,000 and will proceed as donations come in.
Those aren’t the only properties seeing improvements either! Trail work is also underway in the Dundas Valley where horse-friendly bridges continue to see improvements thanks to the Equestrian Campout Fundraiser which has continued to raise money for the Valley’s trails despite being unable to hold their annual event in person. Westfield Heritage Village is also looking to develop trails on recently acquired natural lands behind the beloved Heritage Village, which has seen more and more visitors dropping by to explore the existing trail loop.
With your support, these projects will help to ensure that our conservation lands are able to help a new generation of visitors. We’ve seen just how far that work can go to build a stronger, healthier community and we’re so thankful for all of the generous donors who make this possible.
While the beginning of the pandemic wasn’t an ideal time to launch a new volunteer program, staff from the Hamilton Watershed Stewardship Program were still keen to get the community involved any way they could. Buoyed by a grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation’s Field of Interest Funds, Stewardship staff launched the EcoCise Program. The program sought to pair enthusiastic volunteers with a series of events removing invasive species and cleaning up garbage in the watershed’s natural areas. The pandemic certainly changed those plans but it didn’t stop them.
Despite all of the challenges, volunteers appreciated the opportunity to work outdoors. One email to staff captured that sentiment perfectly: “Thanks for hosting and organizing the event this morning! As a student whose semester is entirely online it’s nice to have these opportunities to still get outside and socialize while having fun with like minded people.” wrote volunteer, Melissa Martins.
All told, the EcoCise program was able to hold 8 physically-distanced, limited-capacity volunteer events during 2020, engaging 55 wonderful volunteers. The volunteers removed invasive species on 4.8 acres of land at different sites including Eramosa Karst CA and Borer’s Falls CA. Species targeted included Common Buckthorn, Multiflora Rose, Invasive Honeysuckle, Common Privet, Manitoba Maple, Invasive Barberry, Norway Maple, Japanese Knotweed and English Ivy.
The program is set to continue into 2021 though events will likely be scheduled later in the season as the pandemic continues to evolve.
With their popular in-person fundraising events on-hold for the time being, the Friends of Westfield have been hard at work finding new ways to raise funds for Westfield Heritage Village. The normally bustling Westfield Heritage Village usually hosts a spring plant sale, Chinese Dinner and all sorts of creative one-off events through the year. Of course, these were all put on hold.
Physical-distancing efforts allowed the volunteer-run gift shop to remain open with limited capacity but volunteers were eager to do more. Volunteers launched an online holiday art auction featuring local artist Barbara Galway which turned out to be a huge success! Several online fundraisers have followed with more planned for the months to come! Future auctions will be held on the Friends of Westfield’s page on 32auctions.com.
As a result of all of their hard work and creativity, The Friends of Westfield were able to end their year with a $10,000 donation to the Hamilton Conservation Foundation in support of Westfield Heritage Village. We can’t possibly thank them enough for this incredible support!
Westfield’s iconic locomotive has charmed visitors for decades, instantly bringing them a warm sense of old-world charm at the heart of the Heritage Village. Decades of exposure to the elements have left the locomotive needing major maintenance beyond what the Village’s kind-hearted volunteers can offer. An initial estimate pegs the cost of these repairs at $50,000.
The Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo #103 locomotive was built in 1910 in Montreal. This Class “G” consolidated type steam locomotive is one of only two of its kind to be preserved. It was retired and moved in 1956 and placed in Gage Park in Hamilton. It was again moved to Westfield in 1977 to join the Jerseyville station, section tool house and caboose.
Volunteers have provided much needed repair and restoration over the years. The locomotive tender, however, is quickly deteriorating from exposure to the elements and its restoration is a big project that requires specialized equipment and facilities. Left to rust, the tender would eventually fall apart and collapse. The engine also needs some repair and a new paint job to slow down further deterioration.
The TH & B “#103” is an integral part of Westfield’s historical railway display and a unique and important part of Canada’s heritage.
While children are once again stuck indoors with virtual learning, HCA Environmental Education Team is working hard to adapt and make sure the magic of nature can still find its way into the virtual classroom.While nothing can replace the experience of being outdoors, the Environmental Education Team has developed unique, interactive, curriculum-linked programs which will help keep students connected. So far, they’ve developed three different programs to share with Hamilton’s students.
Livestream Virtual Sessions are 45-minute sessions directly linked to grade levels of study and curriculum requirements. Many of these sessions include worksheet materials which reflect the study session, often including experiment ideas and discussion points.
E.Y.E. (Exceptional Youth Explore) Wonder Sessions are 15- to 30-minute interactive series, allowing students and teachers to ask questions and provide input on conservation themes. In this series, Environmental Education Team members chat directly with students to unravel the myths and mysteries of our natural world.
HCA Conservation Clips are pre-recorded clips where naturalists record some of the key features and interest points found within the Hamilton watershed’s Conservation Areas. These clips will be available in the late spring.
These efforts follow a successful pre-lockdown fall term where the Environmental Education Team was able to lead sessions outdoors on school grounds. One enthusiastic teacher from Dundas Central School had assumed the highlight of the week was going to be shooting a rocket on the school grounds. To his surprise, his students were far more excited about the red wrigglers they set up in vermiculture kits for a soil and plant study!
If you’ve ever sat down during one of your trips to an HCA Conservation Area, chances are you’ve sat down on one of the over 200 tribute benches donated through the Foundation. These benches are often dedicated in honour or memory of someone special.
They can also be found in very different states of repair. Some benches have been exposed to the elements for over 30 years while others were installed as recently as a few months ago. Efforts are made to flag required maintenance but it usually falls to the donor to get in touch with the Foundation if attention is needed. This means some benches are left in a state of repair that doesn’t reflect the care and sentiment with which they were originally dedicated.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has given Foundation staff a chance to hire two students through the Federal Government’s Canada Summer Jobs program to help improve our bench program. While winter is a strange time to have summer students out in our Conservation Areas, it seemed wholly appropriate in this topsy-turvy time.
Two students, Laura Culp and Laura Lisso, have spent the last several weeks working tirelessly to catalogue over 200 benches. They’ve travelled from the Jerseyville end of the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail all the way out to Fifty Point CA and everywhere in between. They’ve done it in all kinds of weather, too! Having finished their field work well ahead of schedule, they set to work developing their data into a map and database. Now, armed with up to date information thanks to hard work of students, Foundation staff are set to start reaching out to original donors and prioritizing repairs.
While the Foundation only guarantees the repair of a bench for 10 years after it is donated, the Foundation will always be happy to work with donors past that point to ensure that benches continue to reflect the spirit in which they were donated. To learn more about the Foundation’s bench program or other tribute giving options, please visit our Tribute Giving page here.
Hamilton Conservation Foundation has joined with more than 80 charities, financial advisors and legal services from across the Hamilton-Oakville-Niagara Region to show Canadians the power they have to create positive change through a gift in their Will to charity. Will Power™ is a public education effort aimed at empowering more Canadians to leave a charitable gift in their Will, which could raise as much as $40 billion dollars to advance the causes Canadians care about. Imagine the impact we could all make!
Wills are more than a legal means to distribute your personal assets; they are powerful tools for social change. And it’s not an either/or proposition – you can leave a gift in your Will to charity while still taking care of those you love.
The gift you make in your will can fund a specific program area or support the Foundation’s highest-priority needs at the time your gift comes to fruition. This can include acquiring, protecting, and restoring natural areas; connecting future generations with nature and educating them about the importance of conservation; or maintaining and improving the trails that provide public access to our area’s most spectacular natural spaces, all tasks that are not funded by government funds.
Regardless of the size of your legacy gift, it can be made as an outright gift for immediate impact, or endowed to allow for annual contributions. We welcome an opportunity to discuss the many ways you can leave a legacy and encourage you to contact us to learn how your future gift will make a difference at Hamilton Conservation Foundation.
The past school year started off like any other with schools from all over Hamilton and even schools outside of Hamilton looking to visit the Dundas Valley Conservation Area for our unique and amazing outdoor education programs.
This school year, however, was not like any other, and our programs were greatly impacted, first by the work-to-rule action of Ontario teachers and their negotiations at the end of November, and later when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March that resulted in the closure of all schools.
However, our Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) Education staff was able to quickly adapt and put new programming in place.
To deal with the work-to-rule action, the Education team quickly devised specific programming that could be mobile for some of the booked classes – Habitat Study for Grades 2 to 6, and Invasive Species for Grade 9. They were able to provide a number of schools with this option, utilizing their classroom space and transitioning it into a Field Centre, complete with artifacts and sensory activities.
When Covid-19 closed the schools in March, Education Staff once again adapted and, in collaboration with the HCA Marketing team, were able to develop and provide a mixture of learning resources, activities and games for teachers, parents and students to access on the HCA website through a new Nature at Home program.
This school year has been unique in many ways and the education program has had to adapt to the varying changes encountered. Whether going into schools to provide programming or creating online materials for families to do at home, the education program has excelled at providing these opportunities and will continue to do so. We are very much looking forward into getting students back into nature in the coming school year.
We are appreciative of our donors that continue to support the Foundation’s Step Into Nature Fund allowing the education program to adapt and continue to bring nature to students in a variety of ways.
The program, supported by Dodsworth & Brown Funeral Home – Ancaster Chapel, recognizes those honoured with tribute gifts at the Beckett Living Forest in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area.
To date, the program has received tribute gifts honoring 43 individuals, generating over $15,000 in donations.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the plantings that will be enabled by these donations, they are planned for Fifty Point CA, Dundas Valley CA with additional events to come as the pandemic improves.
With a number of generous gifts over the last 15 years, the family has built the Dobson-McKee Family Environmental Education Endowment Fund. The fund, now worth over $700,000, ensures that future generations will be able to explore, understand and appreciate the beautiful diversity of the Dundas Valley.
Richard Dobson, son of Tom and Wilma Dobson, attended the Foundation’s Annual General Meeting in 2008 and gave a very moving speech on behalf of his sisters Ginny and Nancy, and his mother Wilma, all residents in Calgary, Alberta, and his uncle and aunt Bill and Donna Dobson of Ancaster. He talked warmly of his father’s adventures exploring the Valley; how his mother and father met and spent their early married life in Dundas, and what the Dundas Valley had come to mean to him.
Tom and Wilma Dobson “began their commitment to each other as teenagers in Dundas and remained together as a loving couple for over 65 years,” Rick’s sister Ginny told HCA staff back in 2008. “Through wise leadership and counsel, humour and compassion, they made a difference to many varied and widespread individuals and organizations. This endowment honours their cherished memories of family traditions in the Dundas area and their dedication to the importance of environmental education and preserving natural areas for public use.”
Hazel Awde paid tribute to her late husband with legacy gifts to many of the organizations he supported as a volunteer.
Hazel’s late husband Murray (d. Dec 23, 1998) served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors in the 1980s and early 1990s, serving as Chair of our Publicity Committee. His role in promoting conservation was invaluable at a time when the Foundation had no staff members and relied entirely on the skill sets of volunteers. Luckily for the Foundation, Murray sold advertising for CKOC before retiring and was a well-known figure among local media outlets, making him a perfect fit for the Publicity Committee.
Known by his colleagues and peers as “Mr. Volunteer,” Murray volunteered for dozens of local organizations. In addition to volunteering with the Foundation Board, he served as a canvasser for the Canadian Cancer Society for 30 years, chaired the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal, volunteered with Wesley Urban Ministries, was honored for his volunteer service by the Sertoma Club of Hamilton and was active in the Ryerson United church congregation.
Murray’s late widow Hazel was equally involved in Ryerson United Church and chose to show her love of the wider Hamilton community through her estate.
Hazel left gifts in her estate to several of the charities Murray supported with his volunteerism, including the Foundation.
As we prepare this year’s report on 2019 activity, we find ourselves in very different times. The pandemic continues to disrupt our lives – but also provides a reason to be optimistic. Until things return to normal, we can still look forward to enjoying the many conservation areas and natural areas that your donations help to support.
As we reflect and report on the last year, it gives me the opportunity to thank you, our donors, for your continued support of conservation and helping us to ensure natural areas are preserved for now and the future.
This year’s report focuses on legacy – the lasting statements of your generosity that you are providing for future generations. Whether creating or contributing to an existing endowment fund to support a program, including the Foundation in your will, donating a gift of shares, or making the Foundation a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, these legacies will ensure that our natural areas are maintained forever, new natural spaces are protected, and future generations of children will continue to learn and be exposed to conservation through our education programming.
The importance of natural spaces has never been more important. To all of you, the donors who help create and maintain them, thank you!
If you’re a regular visitor to the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, chances are that you’ve crossed paths at some point with Chitra and Robbie Singh. Always cheerful and extraordinarily polite, the couple say they owe their cheerful disposition to the time they spend in nature.
“It’s so important for mental and physical wellbeing,” says Robbie. “That’s why we’re so keen to see it preserved for future generations.”
Chitra and Robbie have left a gift in their will to the Hamilton Conservation Foundation. They’re not shy about discussing their plans, either. “We’re not mega-rich philanthropists but every bit helps and we trust that our gift will have an impact.” The couple also recently had a bench placed in the Dundas Valley. “It’s no use to us to be commemorated after we’re gone!” remarks Chitra with a wry smile.
The long-time Ancaster residents each enjoy the Valley in their own ways. Robbie is a long-distance cyclist and year-round fitness enthusiast, often strapping on ice-cleats during the winter months. Chitra is an avid hiker and prefers to explore the trails during the warmer months. The couple can often be found on the Monarch Trail.
Chitra developed her love of nature at an early age. “We both grew up in Calcutta and were lucky enough to live in houses with large gardens. I was always climbing trees. Anytime my parents needed me, they would inevitably find me up in a tree at one of my friends’ houses,” she recalls with a laugh.
The couple came to Hamilton in 1975 and soon set their sights on the Ancaster neighbourhood they now call home. While they were always aware of the natural world that surrounded them, they began exploring it in earnest when Robbie began training for a long-distance hike along the Camino de Santiago between south-western France and Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in north-western Spain.
Chitra and Robbie have taken a number of other hiking trips to Spain but count themselves lucky to have access to so much of the natural world right here at home. “Between the Bruce Trail, Royal Botanical Gardens and Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA), we’re so lucky to have organizations that care for the environment here in Hamilton. There are tremendous mental and physical health benefits that come from access to the natural world,” explains Robbie.
Chitra recalls meeting now-retired long-time HCA General Manager, Ben Vanderbrug, when she served as President of the Ancaster Rotary Club in 1995. “People like Ben have long inspired us to support efforts to protect more land. It’s important that we have an impact, certainly in the Valley where we hike, but also throughout the entire ecosystem. The waterfalls are beautiful and spectacular but we also need grasslands, wetlands and spaces for the birds. All of the land is important.”
Knowing that they’re supporting that broader ecosystem gives Chitra and Robbie a great sense of satisfaction. Robbie explains: “If you buy a car, you’re sitting there in three months wondering whether or not you’ve made a wise decision with your purchase. If you plant a tree or make a gift, you know that, whatever happens, you’ve made the right choice. That’s a very powerful feeling.”
It’s no wonder Chitra and Robbie are always so cheerful. If you see them out on the trails, we hope you’ll smile too!
The much-anticipated Saltfleet Conservation Area (CA) wetland project will continue moving forward thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. The grant will help cover the cost of a number of studies and design plans required to start construction. That work includes an archaeological survey and a detailed wetland design plan which are expected to be completed in 2021.
The decade-long project is expected to create a number of wetlands and dramatically increase the Upper Stoney and Battlefield Creek’s capacity to mitigate flooding with natural heritage features. These wetlands will form part of the new Saltfleet CA which is also includes passive recreation opportunities and a trail link to the Dofasco 2000 Trail. The larger project has only been made possible with the support of the Heritage Green Community Trust and City of Hamilton who together provided $4 million in funding to acquire the lands necessary to begin this work.
With an unusual and certainly unprecedented school year now coming to an end, a lack of classes visiting the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s Outdoor Environmental Education program in the Dundas Valley CA has put serious pressure on the program’s budget. While similar pressures forced the program to close in the late 1990s, it has been able to withstand this latest disruption and continue connecting students with the natural world.
This is only possible thanks to the support of our extraordinary donors such as the Hamilton Industrial Environmental Association (HIEA). HIEA made a grant for $5,000 to support the program despite knowing that students are not currently able to take field trips to the Dundas Valley CA. The program is instead offering a Nature at Home series to keep students learning about the environment during the pandemic.
Thanks to HIEA’s support, and all of the other wonderful supporters who donate to the Foundation’s Step into Nature Fund, Education program staff are now making plans for the Fall when they hope to greet classes back in the Dundas Valley CA.
With the Covid-19 pandemic leading to the closure of all HCA Conservation Areas earlier this Spring, many regular trail users found themselves resigned to sheltering in place. Adopting an isolated, sedentary lifestyle has been essential to stopping the illness’s spread but it has come with its own negative health consequences. It’s no secret that increased screen time and limited opportunities for fresh air and exercise can affect your mental and physical health.
HCA’s decision to re-open long-distance trails was met with great enthusiasm by Hamilton’s trail users. Even more enthusiasm greeted the re-opening of select Conservation Areas where physical distancing is possible. Trail users have quickly returned and appear to have a new appreciation for the mental and physical health benefits of time spent in nature. The tremendously positive public health impact of these re-openings should not be underestimated.
What many visitors don’t know is that these beautiful, diverse and tremendously necessary conservation lands are only protected because of the generosity and foresight of supporters like you. That support can be seen across the watershed. We’ve had kind words from supporters hiking the Fifty Point CA trail loop as well as donors returning to their daily hikes in the Dundas Valley CA. Neither experience would have been possible had it not been for the community generosity our Foundation has enjoyed since 1976. For being a part of that incredible community legacy, we cannot thank you enough. Your support is now more important than ever.
While maintaining the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is a relatively straightforward endeavour, caring for 40km of meandering trails in the Dundas Valley is anything but. The steep escarpment slopes, unique geologic formations, dense Carolinian forest and countless Spencer Creek tributaries that make the Valley such a beautiful place to visit also pose a unique set of challenges. With a marked increase in extreme weather events and increased community use in recent years, the beloved trail system is constantly in need of maintenance.
Luckily for the our trails, the running and equestrian communities are always eager to help. Each year, the Burlington Runners Club organizes the Sulphur Springs Trail Race. For the last 27 years, proceeds from the volunteer-run race have supported the Dundas Valley Trails Fund.
Each summer, the Dundas Valley Equestrian Association hosts the Equestrian Campout fundraiser. Since the first rides in the early 1990s, equestrians have camped in the main parking lot at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area and taken group rides through the trail system. Participants support the Dundas Valley Trails Fund with registration fees, auctions and pledges from friends and family.
These fundraisers take an extraordinary amount of time to organize and all of that hard work is contributed by volunteers. The Foundation is so lucky to be able to count on their support year after year!
For many of our donors, the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is a vital link between their communities and the natural world. The much-loved multi-use trail connects two urban centres with the beautiful and diverse landscape between them. The trail was re-opened as part of the first phase of relaxed restrictions during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
What most trail users don’t know is that this trail wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for a massive fundraising effort in the 1990s. The Foundation’s Rails to Trails campaign was a true community effort to turn the old rail line into a multi-use trail. The Hamilton Automobile Club (once Canada’s oldest Automobile Club, now a part of CAA) sponsored the first kilometre of the Hamilton to Jerseyville portion of the 32km trail. From there, the Foundation solicited its donors, community partners and got the word out to everyone in the Hamilton watershed. The Foundation even held a Race Night fundraiser in 1994 at the Flamboro Downs racetrack! By the time the trail was completed in the late 1990s, the Foundation had used just about every fundraising method under the sun.
A few years later, corporate partnerships helped the Foundation take a much more straightforward approach to fundraising. Two trails were built to coincide with the turn of the millennium, one in Upper Stoney Creek and the other in Dundas and Flamborough, running through Christie Lake CA. Those have become the Dofasco 2000 Trail and Lafarge 2000 Trail. As their names suggest, the two corporate partners, Dofasco (now ArcelorMittal Dofasco) and Lafarge Canada, stepped up to provide leadership donations for each trail.
Today the Dofasco 2000 Trail connects the Devil’s Punchbowl CA with the Vinemount Swamp and will soon connect to the new Saltfleet Conservation Area.
Today these trails are a part of the fabric of Hamilton’s communities. None of them would exist, however, if it hadn’t been for the wonderful group of donors who made them happen.
The staff and Board of Directors of the Hamilton Conservation Foundation would like to thank all of the wonderful volunteers who have helped our organization to thrive in recent years. Whether you and your children came out to plant trees, you helped to organize a fundraising event with the Friends of Westfield or you sat on one of our committees, thank you!
We very much appreciate all of the wonderful people who help us do far more than we would otherwise be able to.